MLS Spotlight: MLS Cup Matchup Fits the Era

Real Salt Lake are flying into the MLS Cup Final against Sporting Kansas City.

Staff Writer

Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City will meet at Sporting Park for the MLS Cup in a little under two weeks time. There is a timely appropriateness about this matchup given the direction MLS has taken in recent years. It begs the question — since meta discussions are the norm — is this MLS matchup an allegory or a stereotype?

Allegory and stereotype have similarly opposite meanings. Both words can be basically defined as symbols but in completely different ways. An allegory is often seen as a symbol that has a profound meaning behind it while a stereotype is a shallow perception that those in the general public possess.

If this year’s matchup were to be labeled as an allegory, it would have to be done with retrospect to how far along MLS has come along in the past six years. We all know about how remarkable Sporting Kansas City’s turnaround has been having gone from a Kansas City Wizards team that was an afterthought in its own stadium to a rebranded, successful team that consistently fills their own stadium and has become a centerpiece to the sporting culture in its city.

In Real Salt Lake’s case, they are one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the league but lack the big name superstar that can attract a nationally audience. Of course, being in the 33rd largest television market also hurts RSL’s national appeal in that respect as well. However, RSL have a positive, possessive style of play that makes them a fun team to watch even though it is difficult to watch them.

Put all these describing factors together and you get a matchup that symbolizes MLS quite well in its current standing. Two teams finding organizational success in smaller markets, soccer-specific stadiums, positive styles of play and no transcendent superstar on either team. In other words, the essence of MLS 2.0.

Or this is stereotypical from the MLS.

The MLS has a championship game with two teams who weren’t atop the regular season standings or even their conference standings. There’s no one on either of these teams that compel me to watch this game and I look forward to the ads trying to sell the Blue Hell or whatever they call it. It’s also hilarious how both of these teams have unoriginal European soccer names. This is America. We have our own team names and certainly nothing with monarchical connections like Real Salt Lake — and Sporting Kansas City? What does that even mean?

It’s the same old from the MLS. They try to sell us these two random teams with no one I even know or care about?

It’s so simple to craft a perspective for this MLS Cup because of how similar these teams are. That being said, it says something about us when we look to craft these superficial perspectives on what has the potential to be one of the more entertaining finals in recent memory. The funny thing is, the same factors that were used to craft either the glowing allegory or the shallow stereotype are what is laying the groundwork for an extremely competitive game on December 7.

  • Stephen Miller

    I think (most) of your analysis is spot on – if you have been following the MLS for the last 3+ years, then it is abundantly clear why both of these teams deserve to be here, despite there non-conference winning ways. Yet, from an outsiders perspective, “Sporting” KC & “Real” Salt Lake doesn’t exactly scream Dodgers & Yankees, Lakers & Celtics, etc. They seem affected, foreign in places that most of America could care less about.

    The only thing I disagree about is the sales pitch – MLS has been able to capitalize on the meteoric rise of USMNT popularity and could do so now. Graham Zusi & Kyle Beckerman could absolutely headline this match up, with a supporting cast of Besler and (to a much lesser degree) Rimando.